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TNT earned a 6.5 overnight Nielsen rating for Heat-Pacers NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 last night, giving the net TV's highest-rated primetime program of the night (broadcast or cable). TNT has now had the highest-rated program on each night it has aired a game from the Heat-Pacers series. Last night's game earned a 26.2 local rating in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market and a 21.7 rating in Indianapolis. Through four games, TNT is averaging a 6.0 overnight rating, up 13% compared to the first four games of the net's Thunder-Spurs Western Conference Finals last year. Meanwhile, ESPN earned a 4.1 overnight for the series-clinching Spurs-Grizzlies Game 4 on Monday night (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
POP ROCK: In Tampa, Tom Jones wrote Spurs coach Gregg Popovich "regularly acts like a first-class crab when doing in-game interviews." During Game 3, ESPN's Doris Burke "asked two good questions -- one about his offense, another about his defense -- and the answer to both was: 'Turnovers.'" Jones: "That was it. Look, we all realize that these in-game interviews are often a waste of time and coaches are busy. But, occasionally, they do offer insight. Even if they don't, how come Popovich is incapable of being respectful to a sideline reporter doing his or her job?" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 5/27). Yahoo Sports Radio's Sean Pendergast wrote Popovich is "exposing the ludicrousness of an exercise that should have had a figurative bullet put in it long ago." Interviewing coaches either during the game or during "a brief timeout in between quarters flies in the face of logic." It is "as stupid as interviewing a player on his way to the free throw line after drawing a foul" (HOUSTONPRESS.com, 5/27).
WELL ROUNDED: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Tim Baysinger noted this will be ABC/ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Breen's "eighth time calling the NBA's title round." Fans in N.Y. get a "double-dose" of Breen, as he was "behind the mic" for Knicks telecasts on MSG Net. Breen said of the difference between calling a national game as opposed to a local contest, "It's more of just being in tune with the audience. It's more of a difference in terms of how much attention you pay (to the teams)." Baysinger notes some might find it difficult to juggle broadcasting two different types of audiences. But Breen said that he "benefits from covering the NBA's other 29 teams as well as the Knicks." Breen: "It might be (an opponent's) first time playing against the Knicks, but I may have done three games (with) them already. In terms of preparation -- knowing teams, knowing players and knowing coaches -- it's a big benefit" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 5/27 issue).
BRINGING THE HEAT: SI.com's Ben Golliver noted Pacers radio play-by-play broadcaster Mark Boyle on Friday "ripped the Heat’s fans for not staying all the way through to the bitter end" of Game 2 of their series. Boyle said, "We are literally sitting in the crowd here. These losers are leaving. They are flocking to the exits with their team down by three. This city does not only not deserve this team, they don’t deserve any team." Boyle posted a response on Twitter "after receiving criticism over his comments about the Heat’s fans." He wrote, "It appears they don’t like me in Miami. Ouch." Boyle’s comments were "apparently made just after George Hill made the first of two icing free throws with eight seconds remaining in the game." The TV broadcast of the game "confirmed that large sections of the lower bowl began emptying around at that time" (SI.com, 5/25).
Guggenheim Baseball Management is being "forced to rework" its pending 25-year, $7B media-rights deal with Time Warner Cable, according to sources cited by Kosman & DeCambre of the N.Y. POST. The sources said that the new deal could end up seeing the company "fork over" $130M annually to MLB under its revenue-sharing agreement. That is more than 50% higher than the $85M Guggenheim "had expected to pay." The arrangement over the duration of the deal could cost the company "more than $1 billion in lost revenue," which "could hamper GBM’s ability to service the debt on the record-setting 2012 $2.15 billion purchase of the Dodgers or to maintain the team’s $216.6 million payroll." MLB "objected to the deal" because much of the $7B in rights fees to the newly formed Dodgers RSN, SportsNet LA, was "guaranteed no matter how successful -- or not -- it turned out to be." Sources said that Guggenheim "appears to be prepared to agree to the new conditions." Sources said that the Dodgers five months after announcing the media deal have "still not submitted it to MLB for approval, fearing it would be rejected" (N.Y. POST, 5/29).
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled Comcast "does not need to place the Tennis Channel in the same cable subscription tier as its own sports networks," according to Brendan Sasso of THEHILL.com. The ruling "strikes down" a '12 FCC decision that tried to "force Comcast to place the Tennis Channel in the same bundle of channels" as Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network, channels Comcast owns. The FCC had ruled against Comcast in a 3-2 vote, but the appeal court concluded unanimously that the agency "failed to identify adequate evidence of unlawful discrimination." Judge Stephen Williams noted that, according to Comcast, "no customer had ever complained that the Tennis Channel should be in a more affordable tier." The court's opinion did "not address Comcast's controversial claim that the FCC action violated its free-speech rights." But Judge Brett Kavanaugh "endorsed Comcast's First Amendment argument in his concurring opinion" (THEHILL.com, 5/28). BROADCASTING & CABLE's John Eggerton noted cable operators are "allowed to discriminate in carriage so long as it is not for anticompetitive reasons." Comcast had been "carrying Tennis Channel on a sports tier, which costs extra, when in 2009 Tennis sought wider carriage and offered analysis of how much it would cost Comcast for the extra carriage." Tennis Channel or the FCC -- but "likely both together -- have 45 days to ask for a full (en banc) review by the DC appeals court of the three-judge panel" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 5/28).
NET BANKING ON BOOST OF SUBSCRIBERS: In L.A., Meg James notes Tennis Channel, which "turns a profit, had been banking on a big boost in subscribers, which would have generated tens of millions of dollars more through higher ratings and new subscriber fees." The channel had planned to "use the money to strengthen its programming roster," and it had hoped that a "wider distribution and larger audience would make it easier for Tennis Channel investors to sell the channel eventually." SNL Kagan analyst Derek Baine said, "This move, getting into more Comcast homes, was going to move the Tennis Channel up to the next level, but it is tough to get traction when you are an independent channel. ... This could be absolutely devastating financially to the Tennis Channel." Tennis Channel Chair & CEO Ken Solomon said, "We are thriving as a channel and we are going to survive this. We've never been treated fairly by Comcast in the 10 years that we've been in existence, but this is not over." Tennis Channel said that it would "consider an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court" (L.A. TIMES, 5/29).
ABC earned a 3.7 fast-national Nielsen rating and 5.7 million viewers for Sunday afternoon’s Indianapolis 500, marking the lowest viewership for the race since it began airing live in ’86. The previous low was 5.8 million viewers in ’10. The rating for the race, however, marks the second-lowest figure on record, with the 3.7 ahead of only the 3.6 earned in ’10. Indianapolis topped all local markets on Sunday with a 9.3 rating. The local telecast in Indianapolis, which aired later in the day on tape delay, had competition in the market from TNT’s Heat-Pacers Game 3, which drew a 16.1 in Indy. The 9.3 local rating for the race was down from a 9.9 rating last year. Dayton, Ohio, ranked second with an 8.6 local rating and Louisville ranked third with an 8.3. Sunday’s rating peaked at a 5.0 rating in the 2:30-3:00pm ET window (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In Indianapolis, Mark Ambrogi noted the Indy 500 was a "record-setting, exciting race on the track, but it was a historic flop on television." IMS COO Doug Boles said, "We'll continue to move forward and evaluate where we can promote in various markets that are important as we lead into next year" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/29).INDIANAPOLIS 500 AUDIENCE TREND ON ABCYEARRATINGVIEWERS (000)
WINNER'133.75,735 Tony Kanaan'124.36,800 Dario Franchitti'114.06,711 Dan Wheldon'103.65,779 Dario Franchitti'094.06,338 Helio Castroneves'084.67,245 Scott Dixon'074.36,402 Dario Franchitti'065.07,623 Sam Hornish Jr'056.59,743 Dan Wheldon'044.16,078 Buddy Rice'034.66,723 Gil de Ferran'024.87,157 Helio Castroneves'015.88,580 Helio Castroneves'005.58,260 Juan Pablo Montoya'995.57,762 Kenny Brack'985.57,708 Eddie Cheever Jr.'974.35,940 Arie Luyendyk'966.68,479 Buddy Lazier'958.412,025 Jacques Villenueve'948.311,564 Al Unser Jr.
BOOTH REVIEWS: In Tampa, Tom Jones wrote while ABC's Indy 500 telecast had "superb direction and production, the broadcast quite often falls flat," and he believes "it's the broadcasters." Marty Reid "does a decent enough job as the lap-by-lap announcer, but analysts Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear are just meh." Jones: "I just get so much more -- information, analysis, entertainment -- from the NASCAR broadcasters" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 5/27). MOTORSPORT.com's Mark Wilkinson wrote Reid, Cheever and Goodyear's "somnolent tones and torpid delivery make you forget that the race is so freaking exciting." Wilkinson: "Make me sit on the edge of my seat. Make the race so exciting that I have to tune in, not next year, but next week." Meanwhile, ESPN's Lindsay Czarniak was "quite the upgrade" from previous host Brent Musburger, as she "gets auto racing and its personalities" (MOTORSPORT.com, 5/28). But AUTOWEEK's Steven Cole Smith wrote as a fan of the "moderately old-school, less-is-more style of race broadcasting ... I was just fine" with the call from Reid, Cheever and Goodyear. The crew's "no-nonsense approach, coupled with the just-the-facts pit road reporting, never got in the way" of the race. The only "slightly jarring aspect of the coverage is that Reid, Cheever and Goodyear sound quite a bit alike." They at times "almost sounded like they were arguing with themselves" (AUTOWEEK.com, 5/27).
CHANNEL SURFING: SB NATION's Matt Weaver reported former IndyCar driver Mario Andretti "feels the only thing preventing the Series from capturing the imagination of the mass audience is a better television package." Races are currently split between NBC Sports Network and ABC, and while the Indy 500 has been on ABC for 49 straight years, there "was still confusion among the casual or possible first-time viewers." Andretti: "We need a stronger TV package. We need a consistent home for Indy car that is easy for the fans to find and know when to watch. I think the current partners are invested in what we are trying to do, but I think most everyone would agree that it is not as strong as it could be right now" (SBNATION.com, 5/27). SI.com's Lars Anderson noted the "problem for IndyCar ... is that there are still five years remaining on its contract with NBCSN." The net has nine of the final 14 races this season, but IndyCar has "struggled to attract eyeballs." One driver said, "That television contract is just killing us. Even if you want to watch us, no one know how to find us" (SI.com, 5/26).
Fox finished with a 4.3 rating and 7.1 million viewers for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night, down from last year's race, but still high enough to give Fox a win among among networks in primetime. This year's race also had a 40-minute delay due to a cable breaking on a Fox camera and crashing to the track, injuring 10 spectators and causing damage to several cars. The audience this year was down 2% and 4%, respectively, from a 4.4 rating and 7.4 million viewers for last year's race (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote during the first hour following the camera malfunction, it was "frustrating to hear Fox’s announcers frequently tiptoe around the issue that it was their network’s fault the race was delayed and the whole tenor of the night had changed." The crew "kept bending over backwards to praise NASCAR’s response to the situation without talking in much depth about what exactly caused the problem in the first place." Fox "eventually got better as the night went on at owning up and apologizing for its mistake." It did "announce the news that the fans were injured, said that an internal investigation would be held and showed a few replays" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/27). SPORTING NEWS' Jeff Owens wrote Fox was a "loser" in the race, as it "had some serious apologizing to do" following the cable breaking. Fox to its credit "admitted the gaffe and immediately apologized." Now it "must live with the Cablegate jokes for the rest of the season" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 5/27).
The latest issue that F1 and local organizers of New Jersey’s Grand Prix of America "must negotiate if the race is to become a reality" is a "potential conflict between the U.S. Open and the preferred date of the race for the worldwide F1 community -- which also happens to be Father‘s Day," according to Steve Strunsky of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. NBC Sports "does not intend to sacrifice its more traditional audience for the sake of F1, and that includes the millions of dads who for years have spent their Father’s Day tuned in to NBC for golf’s U.S. Open." Sources said that the conflict has "stalled an element essential to finalizing plans for the New Jersey race." How or whether the conflict "might be worked out is unclear." F1, NBC Sports and the "would-be local sponsor of the race, a group headed by" former YES Network chief Leo Hindery Jr., declined to discuss their positions on the issue. But sources said that NBC’s U.S. Open coverage and F1 race's timing "would not change." The FIA, F1’s governing body, following approval by F1 teams "penciled in the Grand Prix of America for June 16 on the 2013 calendar, before Hindery announced it would be postponed." Strunsky noted the conflict is "by no means the only snag Hindery has encountered since announcing plans for the race." Other "bumps in the road have included difficulty securing financial backing for the race, a lagging permitting process for necessary road work on the streets of Weehawken and West New York, and the departure of several key members of the race’s management team" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/27).
STREET SIGNS: NBC earned a 1.0 fast-national Nielsen rating and 1.46 million viewers for the F1 Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday from 7:59-10:30am ET, the first time the race had aired live on broadcast TV in the U.S. The audience was the best for any F1 race on U.S. TV in six years, dating back to the Canadian GP on Fox in '07 (1.49 million viewers). The average viewership for Sunday's race also was higher than the four-race average for Fox last year (1.04 million viewers) -- a package that included one live race and three same-day tape races (all in the afternoon). Last year's Monaco GP aired live on Speed and averaged 427,000 viewers (NBC). In Houston, David Barron noted KPRC-NBC "elected Sunday morning not to air" the Monaco GP, opting instead for infomercials. The station issued an apology on its Facebook page that read in part, "We apologize to anyone who is missing the race." The station in a later Facebook message wrote, "We do apologize once more for the inconvenience this has caused many of you. We value ALL of our viewers and your feedback will be discussed with management so we bring you the best in programming and news. We appreciate the time you’ve taken to comment" (CHRON.com, 5/26).
Fox’ Gus Johnson called play-by-play for the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday between Bundesliga clubs Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, and the broadcast “featured the full Johnson -- the trademark over-the-top zeal, some mangled pronunciation (it's Franck REE-be-ry and not RIB-ERY) and plenty of room for improvement,” according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Deitsch wrote, “I do not believe Gus Johnson will ruin soccer in America -- I'm playing the long game with Johnson as a soccer broadcaster -- but I recognize the fervor of his critics.” Deitsch added, “The one thing I hope Fox Sports executives learned from Johnson's debut season is he needs a consistent partner." Of the various analysts paired with Johnson, Warren Barton "was the best fit," as he "complements Johnson stylistically, and allows the game" to breathe (SI.com, 5/27). In Tampa, Tom Jones wrote, “What bothers me about Gus Johnson as a football and basketball announcer is the same thing that bothers me about him as Fox's featured soccer announcer.” His “speaker-busting volume is so over-the-top ridiculous that I honestly don't understand what he's yelling half the time.” Jones: “If he's screaming a name? Forget it. … Many people out there love Johnson's passion. They dig all the screaming. I'm just not one of those people” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 5/27).
TALKING POINTS: Deitsch’s comments initiated a Twitter conversation yesterday among Deitsch, Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy, Bleacher Report's Dan Levy and SI.com's Andy Glockner. DeCourcy wrote, “Can't RIB-ery pronunciation be classified in same vein as so many who continue to mispronounce MALL-kin and Cali-PAIR-ee?” Deitsch replied, “For sure, but I think diehard world football fans are angered by mispronunciation more than others.” DeCourcy: “I watch plenty. I’m more weary of the insistence on English accents than I am of a slight Americanism on pronunciation.” Levy wrote, “I talk to A LOT of soccer fans. Who is insisting an English accent? That’s a false argument nowadays.” DeCourcy: “OK. Show me the major international tournament on a U.S. network that’s broadcast without one. Except the Gus events.” Levy: “Arlo White? He’s a very good announcer. It’s not about being American. JP does MLS games. Europa League games. He’s fine. Not great.” DeCourcy: “Arlo White doesn’t have an accent? Ooh. Fooled me there.” Levy: “So you’d rather have the 10th best announcer call a sport JUST because he’s American if the 9 better than him are British? Why?” DeCourcy: “I don’t mind the British soccer guys. I love Darke. I mind that every US guy who steps in and tries gets taken apart.” Levy: “Not every. Two. Because they were unprepared and didn't know the game for the level they were placed at the time. Gus=Fox hubris.” Glockner wrote, “I'd like to see FOX put a British cricket commentator on a Sunday NFL game and see what the audience thinks. ... If you have no idea how to call a game, that's a base problem. Lack of prep work compounds it.” DeCourcy: “Most of British PBP guys who work BPL or CL games don't tell us much about game, anyway. I wish they'd do more. ... If Gus merely brings his level of excitability to games, I think it's a fair trade.” Levy: “yes, he yells a lot. Half the time it's at a routine play. The other half makes Fox's highlight reels.” Levy added, “I'm not suggesting I'd prefer British announcers to American. I just want them to know the sport they cover. Not just reading facts.” DeCourcy: “I enjoy [Johnson’s] calls. Do I expect he’ll get better at soccer the more he does? Yes. But this has been an overreaction” (TWITTER.com, 5/28).
VOICE OF AMERICA: THE NEW REPUBLIC’s Marc Tracy wrote the “typical criticism of Johnson is that he capitalizes” on dramatic moments “at the expense of play-by-play.” That criticism could be rebutted “by arguing that the emotion he brings to those moments more than makes up for his technical shortcomings.” The net that “once gave us the glowing hockey puck was now asking perhaps the most self-righteous sports fans in the world -- soccer fanatics in America -- to accept someone they would surely hate. And to do so immediately.” American soccer fans “should have precisely the opposite reaction toward Johnson, who could help accomplish exactly what they have long claimed to want: that soccer be embraced by the entire country.” Given soccer's “rise in America, it's only natural that Fox would make one of the nation's rising sportscasters their face of the sport.” Johnson now has “about half a dozen games under his belt with Fox, and most reviews have been unkind.” But “if you detach yourself from your sentimental feelings about soccer -- love or hate -- and think about the sport objectively, you see that Johnson’s style could suit it very well.” It “may not appeal to those hardcore American soccer fans who would have the U.S. turn into a nation of ‘supporters’ of ‘football,’ but it actually makes sense for the sport, and it could help translate a game that has likely resisted mass popularity here” (NEWREPUBLIC.com, 5/24).
GLOOMY GUS? In N.Y., Sam Borden profiled Johnson and wrote there is “an element of loneliness to Johnson’s new job.” He works "in relative anonymity” in Europe, and “like many American journalists and broadcasters, Johnson quickly realized that working conditions in Europe are far different from those in the United States.” There is “little to no access to players and coaches before or after games in Europe, making it difficult for a newcomer like Johnson to increase his institutional knowledge of the teams he is covering.” Johnson said, “There are no excuses. It’s just different. And that’s something I’m figuring out.” Johnson said that Fox has been “supportive in this early stage ... and there will be more Champions League next season, and the F.A. Cup, too.” Borden noted Fox also “broadcasts the Gold Cup and the Women’s World Cup in 2015, and the 2018 World Cup is not so far off” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/25).
Sports Illustrated will "expand its presence in live online video with a new daily talk show, 'SI Now,' beginning June 3 on SI.com," according to Eric Fisher of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The half-hour program will air at 1:00pm ET and be hosted by Maggie Gray. Content will be "a mix of news and commentary, and feature SI writers and invited newsmakers." The show will "not delve heavily into tactical, X’s-and-O’s breakdown of games, and remain more issues-oriented." SI.com with the live video program also "deepens its competition with its key digital sports rivals, including ESPN, Yahoo and Fox." Ford has signed on as the "exclusive sponsor of 'SI Now,' with the term extending through November, the initial commitment for the program." SI execs at that time will "determine future steps for 'SI Now'" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/27 issue). AD AGE's Michael Sebastian noted SI created a video unit in '10 and execs said that it "produces about 50 original videos each week," but "SI Now" is the "first regular, live video series from any Time Inc. brand." SI.com Managing Editor Matt Bean said that an "archive of the episodes will reside on the site, and certain segments will be spliced into separate videos and dropped into related SI.com stories." SI has "hired five new staffers to work on the show, though some of them may have additional roles at Time Inc. as the company expands its video production" (ADAGE.com, 5/28). Bean and Time Inc. News & Sports Exec Producer Ian Orefice said that the idea to produce the show "was in response to the fact that, every day around 1 p.m., SI.com sees a sizable boost in traffic." The site also will "have the ability to broadcast live from big sports events, like the upcoming U.S. Open" (ADWEEK.com, 5/28).
ESPN has relaunched espnW.com, with the destination receiving a substantial refresh based around a heightened focus on video content and mobile functionality, behind-the-scenes content on female athletes, and material delving into social issues and commentary. The new espnW.com will also be the online home for the "Nine For IX" documentary series. The site first launched in '10. "This is the third major evolution for the site, and as a destination, it's really ready to take the next step forward," said espnW VP Laura Gentile. The new site was developed with the aid of digital agency SapientNitro, and was recently tested by students at Bentley Univ. in Waltham, Mass. The redesign also serves as something of a precursor to a planned redesign next year for ESPN.com.